There’s No Planet B

Our story this year has many parts to it. The planning and advice, the hard work and organisation of the farm team. The fertility and soil management, the weather and the birds and the bees have all played their part.

Our amazing team of packers, rising each morning sometimes at 4am to get to work at 5am to start packing your orders. Finally, having you our customers willing to supporting our farm and a whole bunch of good luck has got us through to another autumn, my 17th year growing vegetables and our 15th year in business.

Growing vegetables commercially is a tough endeavour and in the stony wet land of the West of Ireland it is particularly challenging.  

The skill and art of growing our food is so important and we need to preserve this knowledge. It is invigorating to see so many small-scale growers embrace sustainable growing.

Yet, many commercial growers are struggling, the work is too hard, the price for their produce is too low, the seasons (due to climate change) are unpredictable, and planning for a market that is ever changing and is sometimes 12 months in the future makes it a precarious undertaking indeed.

As with everything and it is no different in our food system, decisions based purely on financial gain with no regard for our environment are causing devastation to our planet.  

It is much easier for a large supermarket buyer to import cheap produce, grown abroad where labour is inexpensive and where very often the working conditions are poor, and the attention paid to biodiversity is scant than buy more expensive IRISH grown crops.  

I am glad we have you our customers and that we do not need to knock on supermarket doors to sell our produce.

Our harvest is overflowing, now we have parsnips, carrots, swedes, cabbage, leeks, celery, pumpkin, kale and Brussels sprouts, the last of the broccoli and the soon to start purple sprouting broccoli and the first time in 10 years we will have celeriac.

I think you might taste the flavour in your in your boxes, tell us if you do! You will also notice the size of all our crops, the warm September and a soil temperature that is 5C above normal means growth has continued well past when it should have slowed leading to bigger produce. 

The days are closing in now and the weather is wet and it should be cool, but as I write this, we have temperatures here in Galway of 17C and it is 8pm, is this climate change in action right here on our doorstep? 

Our promise is simple, “When you get a box from us you do not need to think about whether you are choosing sustainably, we promise you are”. 

Your support for us means our farm survives and thrives, our people stay in jobs, and we get to mind our little patch of land here in the West of Ireland sustainably.

Thank you

Kenneth

Rekindling our Connection with Food

Bees and other pollinators enjoying the kale we leave to flower each year

The art of producing food is marvellous and tough, and on sunny days it is a privilege.

We talk about food all the time here, we grow it, we sow the seeds, we watch the plants grow, we fertilise the soil, we control the weeds and hope we have the right mix to ensure the plants grow healthy and pest free.

We spend the time in between managing the crops, maintaining the land, planting trees, growing hedging, sowing wildflowers for the bees, harnessing the power of the sun, these are all things we do.

We see first-hand the connection between the fresh produce and the cooked food on our plate. We can see how the process of growing healthy food from healthy soil creates local employment and impacts on our locality positively. Sustainable agriculture is good for all and it benefits the environment immeasurably.

Natures’ pest control – a healthy balance on predators and prey naturally occurs on organic farms

We see more bees, and flies, and insects on our farm and we feel there is a balance as we rarely see an out-of-control pest issue. We see more birds, and wild life, we see the land thrive, just this week I saw a giant hare saunter past one of our polytunnels.

Not only that, but organic food is so much better for us, of course it hasn’t been sprayed and so is free of harmful chemicals, but it is also just better nutritionally.

Weed burning rather than spraying chemicals before we plant out this years’ crops

A comprehensive study carried out by David Thomas has demonstrated a remarkable decrease in mineral content in fresh produce over 50 years, comparing food grown in 1941 to food grown in 1991. To the extent that today you would need to eat 6 apples to get the same nutritional value you got in 1941 from eating 5 apples. In some cases mineral levels have dropped by as much as 70%.  

The use of highly soluble fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides and the intensive production of food has led to land that is lifeless and food that is less healthy and less nutritionally dense, this reflects the remarkable connection between our food and the health of our soil. 

There is no way we could know this, as a population we are in danger of losing our connection with the land and our food. This is not our fault, the food system that is championed by supermarkets and giant food producers has made it this way. 

Imagine though if we could see the impact of our positive choices, if we could somehow rekindle that connection with our food? Over the past year it seems we have been remaking that connection.

We are reconnecting with our food by cooking and touching and smelling and seeing how our food is grown. We are redeveloping that connection with nature and this is something we can pass onto our children, we can show them that there is a great, fun and fantastically positive way to live and eat. Although from what I have seen recently it is the children who are teaching us!

Kenneth

Beneath our Feet

One teaspoon of soil contains more living organisms than there are people in the world!

They are the hardworking, unsung heroes of farming. I always knew these creatures were spectacular, but I had no idea they lived for so long or could do so much. I would go so far as to say that they are as important to our food production as the bees, we ignore their welfare at our peril. Charles Darwin thought they were important enough to spend 40 years studying them! You don’t hear so much about them, you don’t see them and I suppose they aren’t quite as photogenic as the honey bee, but they are extremely important and I love them. What am I talking about?

 If you haven’t guessed already, it is the humble earthworm. Earthworms live for about 7 years, and in their lifetime will compost about 7 tonnes of organic matter! These amazing little creatures take organic matter in the soil and convert it into food and nutrients for plants, by way of the worm castings they leave behind. They help aerate the soil, which allows for better water filtration and oxygenation of the soil for other microbes to thrive. This aeration prevents water logging and increases fertility. In a nutshell we would be in a pretty bad place without our underground friends. The soil beneath our feet is thriving with a beautiful complex interconnected myriad of life.  It is a shame, that many of the methods used to grow food in today’s large industrial agricultural system end up destroying the very biological organisms we rely on to sustain our environment.

It is hard not to bring the debate back to glyphosate. It is everywhere and in everything e.g. in non-organic food, wine, beer, in tap water, in urine and it has even been recorded in breastmilk. So much of the stuff is used and with such frequency that it is compromising our health and the health of our food chain and ultimately our planet. Glyphosate is toxic not only to the plants it kills, and the humans which consume the plants but also to earthworms. At least 6 studies have shown that glyphosate is damaging to earthworms, reducing their reproductive rates and reducing the rate at which they turn soil over. Earthworms have chemoreceptors and sensory turbercles on their skin giving them a high degree of sensitivity to chemicals and they avoid soil contaminated with glyphosate.

We can learn a lot from these little creatures. They quietly go about their work, improving our soil, helping us grow food and they know instinctively that glyphosate is something to be avoided. Maybe society should take a leaf out the earthworm’s book and avoid glyphosate too. The good news though is that organic farming does not use glyphosate (or any chemicals) so by buying our produce, you are not only helping the environment, but your own health too! 

Kenneth

PS Thank you for your continued support, we really appreciate it! All our boxes are organic and plastic free and we also have a great range of organic groceries that you can add to your fruit and vegetable order here.

Waterlogged but Never Wavering

When it rains look for rainbows, when it’s dark look for stars.

Oscar Wilde

I came out of my office last week, I had no inspiration, I didn’t have anything to write about, I definitely wasn’t in the right space and I was getting frustrated.

I decided to see what was going on out on the farm and I bumped into Emmanuel and shared my woes. Write about “Muck and rain, and mud, and clay and rain, and water because that about sums up the week just past” he said.

That was it, he had hit the nail on the head, it was wet.

Some places in the fields the water is a foot deep. The beds we planted on in the summer are submerged, the plants with waterlogged roots struggle to breath. It is ok for a few days but if there is prolonged water, then they die.

Walking up a sticky, muddy field with a bag of kale on your back must be one of the very best work outs you can get. If you have ever had a young child wrap themselves around your foot and not let you go, well that is what the field does.

I got the impression last week that even our poor tractor was not happy.

The ruts from the tractor wheeling’s are deep and although Joe (My seven year old son loves them, in fact he would actually disappear into some of them) it does not make for easy navigation when it comes to driving with a tonne of parsnips on the front of the tractor.

In the cold wet weather, you often find yourself with three or four layers of clothes on and waterproofs and wellies and sweating even though it is freezing and wet. This I think is one of my least favourite ways to pass the time.

But the sun is always there, we may not always be able to see it, but it is always up there over the clouds. It is only because of the clouds and the rain that you see the most beautiful skylines, the most stunning sunrises, and the most fantastic evening sunsets. These skyscapes are more striking at this time of the year that in high summer by a long way.

Then of course there is the food.

We are doing, I think, our bit for the planet. We are growing sustainable food on a scale that supports thousands of people each week. When I first wrote this, I thought it could not be true, but then I did the maths. If we do an average of 1500 deliveries per week and each household has an average of 3 people then that is 4500 people, that is a lot of mouths to feed, that is a large responsibility to do things right. That is a lot of trust put in us by you.

I shocked myself with that revelation, a far cry from the first 26 deliveries we did in May 2006.

So, we will get stuck in again on Monday, harvest more food, deal with the mud and the rain, do our bit for sustainable food, do our bit for climate change, because we have to.

Can you sustain a path such as this without being either clinically insane (and that could be the case) or having a belief in something bigger? For us I like to think it is the latter (but who is to say really). Our big “WHY” is the planet, nature, biodiversity, and every living creature we share this earth with deserving a chance. This is what drives us on. Have a look at our 5 Pledges for the Planet to see our promises as a business.

As always thanks for your support, it’s what keeps us going.

Kenneth

PS Don’t forget to place your order for next week here.